There is two ways of looking at this article: it’s a puff piece trying to claw back some love and respect from the general public after a massive balls up, or it’s a thinly veiled threat/thinly disguised warning to the government – give us more money/man power or the hooligans will take over…
Alan Rutter is the area’s former Football Liaison Officer for Humberside Police. Here, he shares his views on football violence in general, and also the clash on Saturday, July 23 in Cleethorpes.
Having read the coverage of, as well as attending, the Grimsby v Sheffield United fixture where disorder took place, as a former football intelligence officer at Grimsby for seven years, and also having worked with the national team abroad, including two world cups, Portugal 2004 and Germany 2006, I would like to make the following comments.
Football hooliganism or violence, is a national disease which has never gone away. It is more prevalent in the lower leagues, and there would have been numerous incidents last season, which were never given media coverage.
In recent years with cutbacks, police commanders have not had the funds to police football to any great degree, unless intelligence indicates disorder, or, as on Saturday, disorder takes place which then has to be dealt with, and a post match investigation takes place.
The British Transport Police (BTP) are in a similar position, understaffed, and have to choose locations to police where football supporters pass through from different clubs and may become flash points, e.g Doncaster and Sheffield.
Generally, disorder takes place away from the football ground and the football clubs have no responsibility to pay for this police operation. This generated much discussion about “full cost recovery” where the football club would pay for the police operation outside the stadium.
Pre-season friendlies are notoriously difficult to police, as intelligence is often sketchy, although in the case of Saturday’s (July 23) match the fact that nearly 2,000 supporters would attend would have been known fairly early due to pre match ticket sale numbers.
Planning meetings take place between the football club and the police, and the police have the power to decline to authorise the playing of the match if the threat level is deemed to be too great.
They can police it as a high category, or insist on an early kick off. The latter can create its own problems with trouble makers merely staying in the town or city after the fixture has completed.
Dispersal orders are not difficult to obtain but are they are difficult to implement due to the vast number of police officers that would be required to remove risk-based supporters from any town or city.
Banning orders are a very useful tool, be it for three or five years. I doubt legislation will ever change to incorporate a “lifetime ban”.
Banning orders come with or without conditions, enabling an individual to be banned from Cleethorpes town centre on the match day for example.
However, the banning order is somewhat useless unless every game, both home and more particularly away, is policed and the officers know these individuals. This makes a football intelligence officer an important part of any football policing operation.
The courts do not, of course, always issue the banning orders. The safety officer and stewards generally know the identity of these individuals. So many obstacles, and no doubt there will be further challenges throughout the season.